CHICAGO (CBS) — Independent poll watchers have notified authorities of allegations of vote buying by a candidate who made the runoff election to replace Ald. Danny Solis in the 25th Ward.
The non-profit non-partisan Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights had poll watchers stationed at a polling place at 1354 S. Morgan St. on Tuesday, and received reports from at least five voters who claimed they were offered gift cards in exchange for voting for Byron Sigcho-Lopez.
Some of the voters said the interactions happened inside the polling place, and some reported the offers happened in the parking lot.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office confirmed it sent two attorneys to the Morgan Street polling place to investigate reports of vote buying.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office confirmed it also was notified of the complaints.
Sigcho-Lopez campaign manager Zoe Chan said she had no knowledge of the incident, but has learned since that the gift cards in question were a joint initiative between the Chicago Housing Initiative and the Barbara Jean Wright Tenants Council.
Chicago Housing Initiative executive director Leah Levinger said they were offering gift cards to residents in the Barbara Jean Wright Courts apartments, the building where the polling place is located. Levinger said, while volunteers also were encouraging people to vote, the gift cards were given to tenants regardless of whether they voted, and everyone involved in the initiative signed forms stating they would not discuss any candidates. Volunteers also were told not to endorse a candidate, or to force someone to vote to get a gift card.
Five candidates ran for alderman in the 25th Ward after incumbent Danny Solis announced he was not running for re-election. According to unofficial results from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, Sigcho-Lopez and Alexander Acevedo were the two leading candidates. That race is headed to a runoff, since no candidate received a majority of the votes.
Since announcing his retirement last November after more than 20 years in office, Solis had been ensnared in controversy. It was reported he wore a wire for the FBI while having conversations with Ald. Ed Burke (14th) who is now under federal investigation for alleged extortion.
But Solis himself was being watched by the feds, as it was revealed that contributors supplied him with money, Viagra and sex acts.
The government listened to more than 18,000 hours of the alderman’s conversations in one year. But Solis has not been charged with any crime.
Solis hasn’t been seen or heard from since it was revealed that he wore a wire for the FBI to tape his conversations with Burke. But since then, Solis has resigned as Chairman of the city’s Zoning Committee.